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An 'exception culturelle'? French sensationist political economy and the shaping of public economics


  • Gilbert Faccarello


This paper examines some ideas developed in the field of public economics by French Sensationist political economists, from Turgot and Condorcet to the young Jean-Baptiste Say. An ideal-typical account of their position is based on the fact that issues raised by public expenditure and revenue are not dealt with independently. Instead, a strong link between the two sides of the budget is emphasized, an approach arising out of political considerations concerning human rights and equity. Following on from this they develop a theory of public expenditure based on public goods - national and local - and externalities, and a theory of taxation culminating in a justification of progressive taxation. The central section of the paper forms a kind of pivotal point in the analysis, showing how the above political and ethical requirements of the theory lead to the first estimation of the optimal amount of public expenditure and revenue - involving an equilibrium at the margin.

Suggested Citation

  • Gilbert Faccarello, 2006. "An 'exception culturelle'? French sensationist political economy and the shaping of public economics," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(1), pages 1-38.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:eujhet:v:13:y:2006:i:1:p:1-38
    DOI: 10.1080/09672560500522835

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:83:y:1989:i:04:p:1317-1340_08 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Musgrave, R.A., 1985. "A brief history of fiscal doctrine," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 1-59 Elsevier.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:82:y:1988:i:04:p:1231-1244_19 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Alain Béraud & Gilbert Faccarello, 1999. "Nouvelle histoire de la pensée économique, tome 1," Post-Print halshs-00201472, HAL.
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    Cited by:

    1. Blankart Charles B., 2015. "Politische Folgen finanzwissenschaftlicher Konzepte / Political consequence of public finance," ORDO. Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, De Gruyter, vol. 66(1), pages 61-80, January.
    2. Philippe Poinsot, 2010. "The foundations of justice in Jules Dupuit's thought," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(4), pages 793-812.


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